Murderer Jeffrey Dumbrell punched prison nurse in face

Court hears ‘notorious’ killer was judged to be one of most high risk prisoners in State

"Notorious" murderer Jeffrey Dumbrell punched a prison nurse in the face while she was giving him his medication in Wheatfield Prison's maximum security unit.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard it was Dumbrell's second conviction since receiving a life sentence for murder in 2011. Earlier this year he was sentenced for threatening to rip a prison officer's head off.

Dumbrell will be sentenced on Thursday after pleading guilty to assault causing harm to Nurse Officer Donna Canavan on July 19th, 2015.

His current jail sentence cannot be extended, prosecuting counsel Ronan Kennedy BL said, as “you can’t make a sentence consecutive to a life sentence.”


The courts have ruled previously that a life sentence cannot be extended for new offending while in prison because technically a life sentence never ends. When life sentence prisoners are released it is on “permanent temporary release” meaning the sentence is still active.

However the new offending can be taken into account by the Parole Board when it assesses his suitability for release.

Defence counsel John Berry BL said it would be easy to call the sentencing an academic exercise.

“But this is extraordinary real for the victim in this case and for Mr Dumbrell,” he said.

Counsel said his client was a “notorious” prisoner and was judged to be one of the most high risk prisoners in the State. He was kept in an “extremely secure unit” with just one other “notorious” prisoner.

Mr Berry said Dumbrell decided last year that if he was going to preserve “any degree of sanity” he would have to rehabilitate and transfer to a less strict regime. He said he had since been moved into much less strict part of the prison which houses 125 other inmates. He had also begun education courses.

Counsel told Judge Leonie Reynolds that Dumbrell "has only the faintest hope of release in the distant future" when he goes before the Parole Board and he knows he must show he has made efforts towards rehabilitation.

Garda Kevin Molloy told the court that Nurse Canavan was accompanied by five prison officers as she brought Dumbrell his morning medication. She stood at the door of the cell, at arm's length from the prisoner when he lunged forward and struck her in the face.

She fell to the ground as Dumbrell was restrained and brought to an isolation cell. He did not resist the officers.

Nurse Canavan suffered severe bruising to her face and eye socket and missed six weeks of work.

She made a full recovery and did not wish to make a victim impact statement. She has since transferred to another prison.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times